Malaria in ZanzibarMalaria is both highly infectious and fatal and is often spread by the bites of infected mosquitos. The disease is treatable, but only if it is correctly identified quickly. As a result, there are an estimated 228 million cases of malaria worldwide with more than 405,000 deaths in 2018 alone. According to the World Health Organization, Africa has the highest number of malaria cases, with the most common cases occurring in pregnant women, patients with HIV/AIDS and children under 5 years of age. With such a devastating impact across the continent, African governments have taken special measures in order to combat the threat of the disease. Some countries have begun to work towards their own novel solutions, such as the usage of drones to combat malaria in Zanzibar.

Zanzibar’s Drones

Over the past decade, the island nation of Zanzibar (located off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean) has begun to develop a novel way to fight malaria. Recently, thousands of households have installed mosquito nets over their beds and sprayed insecticide over their homes in order to reduce the likelihood of getting bites. These strategies have proved beneficial as the number of cases of malaria in Zanzibar’s population dropped from 40% to 10%. The next phase of the plan involves spraying drones to directly target the mosquitoes themselves.

The Process

As it turns out, the only mosquitoes that spread malaria are the females of the genus Anopheles. The Zanzibar Malaria Elimination Program (ZAMEP) has created a strategy to take the fight directly towards breeding habitats of those mosquitos: pools of stagnant water, such as those found in Zanzibar’s many rice paddies. Researchers have developed a novel liquid compound called Aquatain AMF. The compound is non-toxic and biodegradable and doesn’t damage crops like traditional spraying pesticides. Aquatain AMF works by acting like a gel over the surface of water where female mosquitoes lay their eggs. Consequently, the larvae drown before they can mature to adult mosquitos who can potentially spread malaria. In addition, the drones can survey the land to detect locations with high expected levels of mosquito breeding and can spray Aquatain AMF over eight hectares in one hour, far faster than can be done by hand.

Moving Forward

Currently, the drones are still in the testing stage and the government has to mass-produce them. Future steps include designing smartphone apps to guide ground-based spraying teams from drone footage and using automatically disseminating larvicide in the drones to speed up the process. However, there are several concerns about the drones. Drone operations need to watch out for collisions with aircraft and wildlife. Furthermore, the island natives have concerns about the drones mainly regarding an invasion of privacy and the association with warfare. Still, researchers are working with village elders in order to explain the methodology and process involved in the drones and how they can benefit from this technology. Should the testing phase continue to proceed smoothly, it may be possible that the research team can put their stamp on a machine that can eradicate malaria in Zanzibar and maybe even off the face of the planet.

– Aditya Daita

Photo: Pixabay

 

music education in developing countries
Around the globe, music education represents an influential force in the fight against poverty. Studies show that learning a musical instrument entails numerous cognitive advantages for children and young adults, improving memory, attention and communication skills. Music also builds confidence and allows students to express their creativity. In addition, the music industry creates space for new economic developments and possibilities. Here are four examples of music education in developing countries and the ways in which it makes a difference in the lives of the world’s poor.

Haiti

Amid political upheaval and the domestic challenges of daily life, music offers impoverished Haitians a source of comfort and strength. Organizations such as BLUME Haiti aim to utilize music as an avenue for education and community building.

After a deadly earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, BLUME Haiti began delivering musical instruments and supplies to help the nation rebuild. Through summer music camps, professional development workshops for Haitian music teachers, music classes in schools and other programs, BLUME Haiti continues to reach talented youth as they learn new skills and imagine broader possibilities for their futures.

In partnership with the Utah Symphony Orchestra, BLUME Haiti unveiled the innovative Haitian Orchestra Institute (HOI) in 2017. The program invites top music students from around the country to develop their craft alongside professional musicians. Chosen through a selective audition process, participants join Utah Symphony’s Music Director Thierry Fischer for a full week of rehearsals, sectionals, lessons and a final concert. Each year, HOI affords hundreds of young artists a life-changing experience.

The Dominican Republic

In the Dominican Republic, public schools are often unable to fund enrichment programs that allow students to express their creativity outside the classroom. Without a creative outlet, many students find themselves disengaged from the curriculum and choose to drop out of school.

The DREAM Music Education Program is taking steps to combat this issue. DREAM introduces music programs in public schools to improve students’ educational experience and strengthen their cognitive abilities. Since undertaking these efforts, the organization has found that students who participate in a band or other musical ensemble are seven times more likely to graduate from high school.

In all DREAM programs, students receive training in basic musical skills, work together in a group setting and develop an appreciation for Dominican musical traditions. Performance opportunities and interactive classes throughout the year celebrate all students’ achievements. Meanwhile, hoping to instill in them a sense of identity and belonging, DREAM works particularly hard to reach at-risk youth.

Rwanda

Music education also plays a critical role in Rwanda, where people are still reeling from the trauma of genocide. Two programs have initiated a joint effort to use music as a means of therapy, aid and economic development for the Rwandan people.

Music Road Rwanda sponsors live music events throughout the country that feature both classical and traditional Rwandan music. The organization also raises money for students to train at the Kigali Music School. Generous scholarships, funded by Music Road Rwanda’s “adopt-a-student” model, allow under-resourced youth to prepare for careers as musicians and music therapists.

Musicians Without Borders Rwanda expresses a similar mission of hope and healing through music. Working in concert with its medical partner We-ACTx for Hope, the organization hires local artists to teach singing and songwriting in traumatized communities. In 2012, Musicians Without Borders introduced its Music Leadership Training campaign, encouraging students to embrace music as a vehicle for empathy and social change.

Bangladesh

The Mirpur district of Dhaka, Bangladesh is one of the poorest areas in the world: 32% of residents live on less than $2 a day, and 48% of children suffer from malnutrition. Illiteracy rates are also among the world’s highest. Two music teachers from the Playing for Change Foundation are working to make a difference here through music education.

Their free music classes take a unique, interdisciplinary approach to help students develop vocabulary, reading and pronunciation skills as they learn their instruments. The two teachers spend nearly 100 hours each month with their students, who range in age from 5 to 12 years old. All students come from the approximately 950 children receiving education from the poverty-relief organization SpaandanB.

Donors from around the world have contributed funds to purchase keyboards, acoustic guitars and ukuleles for Mirpur music students. Each instrument costs between $80 and $100 and affords students the invaluable gift of cherishing music for a lifetime.

Young musicians worldwide, especially those living in poverty, benefit from the rigor of music education. Music connects people through a language that transcends the bounds of time, space and nation. At the same time, it supports the development of critical life skills. It is imperative that we continue to provide music education in developing countries and foster the innumerable advantages it promises to bring in its train.

Katie Painter 
Photo: U.S. Air Force

Homelessness in MadagascarMadagascar is an island of abundant resources and wildlife, yet remains one of the poorest countries in the world. The African country experiences high rates of poverty and vulnerability since it gained independence in 1960. It possesses a complex history of poor leadership, inadequate infrastructure and economic colonialism that continues to negatively affect its population today, specifically resulting in an issue with homelessness in Madagascar.

The Causes of Homelessness

Its geographical location off the Southern African coast makes Madagascar susceptible to natural disasters, such as severe hurricanes, floods and droughts. Unpredictable weather persists, not only destroying homes but also leading to detrimental effects on food supply, health pandemics and overall quality of life. More than 50 natural disasters have impacted Madagascar’s homelessness rate in the last 35 years.

For example, in 2019, a cyclone killed two people and left 1,400 people homeless. Two years prior, an even more powerful storm left 247,000 people without shelter. However, some villages like Antanandava rallied together to rebuild as a community.

Chaotic weather patterns also impact the key drivers of economic growth namely, agriculture, fishing and forestry. While agriculture can sometimes reap the rewards of extreme weather, like heavy rain on crops, droughts on the other hand dry up rice plants, leaving workers with a much lower income. According to a 2017 study, this inconsistent economic growth creates patterns of financial insecurity and failure to diminish the homeless population in rural communities.

Unequal Housing

While some are able to rebuild their homes after a disaster, others are left destitute. More than 65% of the population lives in rural areas, where poverty is significantly higher than in urban regions and where most of the working-age populace resides. Homes in rural communities are mostly built of local materials such as cheap wood or mud, leaving thousands of individuals homeless after one intensive environmental hazard. Southern and coastal areas are usually the first to get hit by a weather crisis, damaging homes instantaneously. This creates a widespread housing shortage and results in the displacement of many Malagasy people.

Solutions

In an effort to fight this consequence of poverty, homelessness in Madagascar has become a priority in the eyes of the World Bank Group which partners with other organizations to offer aid. The organization currently invests a combined $1.28 billion across all 15 of its programs working to reform multiple sectors of Madagascar, including energy, education and health crises. The WBG, in collaboration with the Country Partnership Framework, has created economic objectives to accomplish in its plan for 2017-2021. Some initiatives include strengthening households living in poverty and upgrading means of transportation and energy. In 2019, over 783,000 Malagasy families’ incomes stabilized, allowing them to start businesses and secure their residences.

In addition, aid from UNDP began in 2015 and the long-term goals include ending all poverty, generating universal access to clean water and nurturing sustainable communities. Achieving these goals will ensure that families will gain new homes of their own and be able to maintain them.

Homelessness in Madagascar is a complex problem with many economic and domestic factors contributing to the issue. It continues to be an urgent threat to the lives of its citizens, creating harmful short- and long-term effects. However, with the improvements made thus far, the future for Madagascar is hopeful.

– Radley Tan
Photo: Flickr

Economic Empowerment for Women in ZimbabweIn the Shona language, the word “Hamba” means “go.” And this is the exact mission of Mobility for Africa’s new initiative. More specifically, its “Hamba” motorbikes promote economic empowerment for women in Zimbabwe especially those living in rural areas.

A Speedy Solution

The motorbikes are electric-powered three-wheelers or e-tricycles. They are sturdy enough to help Zimbabwean women with farm and domestic work, and reliable enough to transport those in need of healthcare facilities. Mobility for Africa rents out the motorbikes to groups of up to five women. The entire group pays $15 a month for the Hamba, and charging the motorbike’s lithium-ion batteries at a station only costs between $0.50 and $1.

Mobility for Africa’s website lists three key goals: to empower women living in rural Africa through transportation; to improve their quality of life and that of their families; and to create a more sustainable future by developing transportation built on renewable energy.

Economic Empowerment for Women in Zimbabwe

Physical isolation from roads and economic centers can make rural life challenging. The Hamba allows Zimbabwean women to do the following activities, which previously they could not do, or could not do without great difficulty:

  1. Transport produce to more distant markets. The ability to sell their farm products more easily allows women to increase their income. The Hamba allows them to save time and energy reaching their destination.

  2. Collect essential items for the women’s families. These items include medicine and other supplies that are necessary for preventing the spread of COVID-19.

  3. Complete domestic work such as transporting firewood or water. By saving time on tasks like these, women have more opportunities to earn an income or pursue an education.

  4. Transport people to healthcare facilities. This includes both ferrying pregnant women to clinics so they do not have to give birth at home, and taking COVID-19 patients to receive medical attention.

As of June 30, Zimbabwe had only reported 574 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and seven deaths caused by the virus. Despite these low numbers compared to many other countries, the country’s lockdown has had a negative impact on people’s income—especially the income of people working in the informal sector. This includes many women. These economic difficulties make opportunities like the ones the Hamba provides even more important.

The Bigger Picture

According to estimates from the World Bank, extreme poverty in Zimbabwe increased from 29% in 2018 to 34% in 2019. That’s an increase of one million people and the World Bank expects that these numbers will continue to grow through 2020.

The situation is especially dire in rural areas. There, 76.3% of children find themselves in “abject poverty,” and many struggle to find enough to eat. The recent drought brought on by El Niño has contributed to this crisis, and now the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to make matters even worse.

According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, Zimbabwe’s food security situation was already critical before the pandemic. With lockdown measures and restricted movement, household incomes have dropped, and more of the country’s population has become food insecure. This grim picture makes expanding economic opportunities essential for Zimbabweans, especially those in rural areas where physical isolation keeps them from many resources.

Overall, the Hamba motorbikes provide many opportunities all geared toward economic empowerment for women in Zimbabwe. With the Hamba, Zimbabwean women are increasing their income, saving time on domestic labor and working to keep their families safe during the pandemic. These are the kinds of results needed to enable them to rise up out of poverty.

– Emily Dexter
Photo: Flickr

Farming in Nigeria
Farming in Nigeria makes up a significant part of the Nigerian economy with agriculture accounting for more than 20% of the country’s gross domestic product. However, even with the large number of people who make a living by farming, around 20 million people are facing unemployment in the country. With this in mind, Kola Masha set out to create an enterprise that would promote farming in Nigeria while also reducing the rate of unemployment. This goal led to the founding of Babban Gona, an enterprise Masha hoped would change the world of Nigerian farming for the better.

Poverty in Nigeria

As of 2018, approximately 82 million Nigerians were living in poverty, which is defined as living on $1.90 a day or less. The population of Nigeria is approximately 200 million, meaning about 40% of Nigerians are living in poverty. There are many reasons for the high poverty rate in Nigeria. The social unrest in the country as well as the regional inequality between Northern and Southern Nigeria both contribute to the poverty rate. However, one of the most critical reasons for the large number of people living in poverty is the lack of job opportunities.

Babban Gona

Faced with the growing unemployment rate of Nigeria, Kola Masha decided to found Babban Gona in 2012. The goal of the enterprise is to create more jobs by expanding crop production in rural areas of Nigeria. It focuses mostly on maize production and farming in Nigeria. The organization is currently working towards the goal of creating 10 million jobs by 2030. Though no easy feat, Babban Gona has gotten a good head start, as it already has over 100,000 members in six different Nigerian states. Masha believes that agriculture is the industry best fit for job expansion in Nigeria and is extremely hopeful that the industry will help create many more jobs.

The ‘Great Farm’ and What it Does

Babban Gona, which translates to “great farm” in Hausa language, works by providing its members with different farming-related aides that will help enhance their crop production. The company focuses on financial services, agricultural input services, training and development and marketing services. Once a farmer becomes a member of Babban Gona, they automatically have access to training that will ensure they are using the best techniques possible.

Agents of Babban Gona often teach members about water retention, seed planting and sustainable farming, among other essential farming methods. Babban Gona also provides members with storage facilities during the harvest season, which keeps crops from wasting and teaches their members about marketing. The enterprise also provides its members with access to much-need credit services. With funding by many different agencies and governments, including the Nigerian Sovereign Wealth Fund and the German government, Babban Gona is able to stay alive and continue to help its current members, as well as take in new ones.

Babban Gona is a revolutionary enterprise that is working hard to reduce unemployment and encourage agriculture in Nigeria. Through services like training, food storage and financial help, the organization is dedicated to helping its members excel. Babban Gona is changing farming in Nigeria by providing its members with invaluable skills that will no doubt benefit them for a lifetime, while also proving that ambitious ideas can become reality with some hard work and the right mindset.

– Paige MusgravePhoto: Pixabay

COVID-19 in RwandaRwanda is now using five anti-epidemic robots to help combat COVID-19. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), an organization working to end global poverty using sustainable practices, donated the robots. The robots’ names are Akazuba, Ikizere, Mwiza, Ngabo and Urumuri. The country received the robots on May 19, 2020, at its Kanyinya Treatment Centre located in the capital city of Kigali, which has taken the brunt of cases of COVID-19 in Rwanda.

About Anti-Epidemic Robots

The robots have the capacity to take temperatures of patients and screen up to 150 people every minute for symptoms. They can also store medical records and capture visual and auditory data for later use by medical personnel. According to Minister of Health Daniel Ngamije, the robots can detect when someone is not wearing a mask. They can then notify staff so the issue can be swiftly and safely resolved. Additionally, the robots can deliver food and medicine to both COVID-19 patients and healthcare workers. They are also able to communicate accurate information about the virus.

Since the outbreak, more than 90,000 healthcare workers around the world have contracted COVID-19 as a result of contact with patients. By utilizing anti-epidemic robots, the Rwandan Ministry of Health hopes to keep medical personnel safe by reducing contact with patients. The robots can also get people the help they need faster and can partially make up for low physician density. As of 2017, Rwanda has only 0.13 physicians per 1,000 people. According to the World Health Organization, anything less than 2.3 physicians per 1,000 of the population is insufficient.

Impact of COVID-19 Globally

COVID-19 has rapidly spread across the globe in a matter of months. Although the outbreak impacts many lives, the lives and futures of vulnerable populations have been particularly affected. The UNDP predicts human development—health, education and standard of living—will decline in all regions of the world. This would be the first decrease in the 30 years the measure has been in use. The World Bank says people living in extreme poverty could increase by 40 to 60 million this year. At this rate, up to 50% of people could lose their jobs and the economy could potentially lose $10 trillion. In addition, more than 250 million people worldwide could face hunger. Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are projected to take the biggest blows.

Rwanda, in particular, is quite vulnerable in these aspects. As of 2015, 39.1% of the population lives below the poverty line. In addition, 23.9% do not have access to an improved water source and 38.4% of the population does not have access to improved sanitation facilities. These issues, on top of the high population density, mean COVID-19 has the potential to spread faster and more easily. COVID-19 in Rwanda has the potential to push these vulnerable populations deeper into poverty.

Despite these issues, Rwanda’s introduction of anti-epidemic robots is a step in the right direction. The country has the potential of both slowing the spread of COVID-19 and improving the quality of medical care. Reducing poverty in Rwanda will take time and a coordinated effort. As of right now, battling the effects of COVID-19 is of the utmost importance.

– Elizabeth Davis
Photo: Flickr

a new kind of bindiWhether wealthy or poor, the women of India are proud of their heritage and embrace their unique culture. One of the most noticeable components of Indian women’s culture is the bindi. While the rest of the world views it as a simple accessory, this tiny dot that sits in the middle of the woman’s forehead is a key element of reflecting Hinduism. Today the bindi is capable of being more than a religious adornment. The Life Saving Dot is a new kind of bindi that provides its wearer with a daily dose of iodine.

Iodine Deficiency in India

Iodine Deficiency Disorder, or IDD, is especially common in India due to the lack of iodized soil and nutrition. The Life Saving Dot has not only directly improved women’s health, but has also brought attention to the importance of including iodine in the everyday diet.

IDD is common especially in India for a number of reasons. The soil in India is famous for its lack of iodization, leaving crops with an insufficient amount of iodine. A majority of Indians favor a vegetarian diet and rarely eat seafood, which is another important source of iodine. A lack of iodized nutrition and a simple lack of awareness are the main contributors to IDD in India.

Iodine deficiency leads to a number of health issues. It is the largest contributor to brain damage which is often permanent. IDD is especially common among women as it affects pregnancy and can lead to breast cancer. Although IDD can have severe consequences, the disorder itself is easily preventable with a sufficient daily dose of iodine.

The Life Saving Dot: How it Works

The technology of the Life Saving Dot is comparable to that of a nicotine patch. The wearer absorbs the nutrients through her skin while wearing the patch. The Life Saving Dot provides the wearer with 150 to 200 micrograms of iodine when worn for at least four hours. While most women wearing the Life Saving Dot report beneficial results, the effectiveness of the dot will depend on certain factors such as skin thickness and even weather. The precipitation level of the current climate has the potential to affect the effectiveness of the dot.

This small dot has had a tremendous impact on the overall health of Indian women. Women wearing this bindi have reported a decrease in headaches, a common side effect of iodine deficiency. Costing only 10 rupees (equivalent to 16 cents in USD) for a pack of 30 dots, it is easily accessible to women of all income levels in India.

Impact of the Life Saving Dot

While the Life Saving Dot has a clearly direct impact on women’s health, perhaps the most important success of the dot is the awareness it created. The greatest contributor to IDD in India is a simple lack of awareness of the importance of iodine. An easy and effective way to combat iodine deficiency is by cooking with iodized salt. However, a significant number of Indian households were unaware of its importance.

India has made great progress in the search for IDD alleviation. According to a recent survey conducted from October 2018 to March 2019, awareness of iodized salt benefits is at 62.2% in urban areas and 50.5% in rural areas. Out of the 21,406 households included in the survey, 76.3% now have iodized salt in the home.

Awareness of iodine necessity increased due to media and the efforts of the Life Saving Dot. This new kind of bindi allows women to represent their proud culture while protecting their health. The direct health benefits of the Life Saving Dot are awe-inspiring and the awareness it presents is life-saving. By improving the awareness of the importance of incorporating iodine into one’s diet, families are protected from goiter, pregnancy complications and even brain disorders. Thanks to a small dot on the forehead, Indian women and their families are protected from IDD and the potential health risks it brings.

– Brittany Carter 
Photo: Flickr

The US is Making Strides to Help Reduce HIV in Tanzania Tanzania is the largest and most populous country in East Africa, with nearly 59 million inhabitants. It is a youthful and rapidly growing population with a fertility rate of nearly 4.8 children per woman. Almost two-thirds of the population is under 25, and 42% is under 15. While malaria is the leading cause of death for children under 5, HIV/AIDS is the main killer among adults. In 2018, 1.6 million people were living with HIV in Tanzania, with a prevalence rate of 4.6% among adults. Approximately 24,000 adults died of AIDS-related illnesses, the seventh-most in the world. As more of the country’s population reaches adulthood, containing the spread of HIV in Tanzania will become even more important, and international assistance can continue playing an important role in the effort to do so. 

The 90-90-90 Target to reduce HIV in Tanzania

In 2017, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, a joint venture of six UN agencies that coordinates the international fight against HIV, set a “90-90-90” global target for 2020. The goals were by 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV would know the status of their disease, 90% of all people diagnosed with HIV would be receiving antiretroviral therapy and 90% of all people receiving treatment for HIV would have viral suppression. 

Although it is too early to predict whether Tanzania will achieve these targets, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS reports the country has made strides in fighting the disease. In addition, the number of AIDS-related deaths per year declined to 49% between 2010 and 2018. Moreover, according to a 2019 report based on a 2016-2017 survey, Tanzania appeared close to reaching at least two of the three 90-90-90 benchmarks: 60.6% of people knew their status as living with HIV; around 93.6% of people diagnosed with HIV were receiving antiretroviral therapy; 87% had viral suppression of the people receiving treatment.

Action Taken by the United States

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is the United States’ response to the epidemic and is a leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The initiative provides antiretroviral treatment to more than 14.6 million people in more than 50 countries. As a result, this reflects remarkable progress since the program began in 2003 when only 50,000 people were on treatment in sub-Saharan Africa. Furthermore, the United States’ program uses granular data to map the HIV epidemic and maximize the impact of its efforts. For example, in 2014 the U.S. announced the Accelerating Children on HIV/AIDS Treatment (ACT) Initiative. Around 84,745 people in Tanzania who are 20 years or younger were receiving ART. The ACT initiative has given ART treatment to over a million children and adolescents in total.

PEPFAR and DREAMS

Girls are roughly 75% more likely to become HIV infected than boys. In addition, PEPFAR has created DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe). In an overview between 2016 and 2019, PEPFAR DREAMS in Tanzania was given over 52 million dollars in funding. Private sector partners include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Johnson and Johnson. As with all PEPFAR countries, the U.S. collaborates with Tanzania’s government in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The United Republic of Tanzania’s Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children started the National Aids Control Programme (NACP).

Tanzania took strides to reach the 90-90-90 target. One of these is the Treat All strategy, where they attempt to test and treat as many people as possible. Another effort includes distributing condoms to public and private places consistently to prevent the spread of infection. They also hope to educate males to raise awareness about their vital role in spreading the virus. Finally, they hope to address sub-groups at higher risk, such as those who inject drugs. These efforts, among many others, have helped reach the hopeful numbers listed above and have given Tanzania great potential for progress towards 2030.

Looking Ahead

The NACP is proud of its efforts to eradicate HIV in Tanzania. Looking forward, UNAIDS has created a new target: 95-95-95 by 2030. Tanzania is making progress and has a bright future.

Annie Raglow

Photo: Flickr

EU Youth UnemploymentIn 2019, the EU youth unemployment rate was at its lowest point in the last 10 years. More than 3.3 million young people (aged 15-24 years) were unemployed that same year, but compared with the previous year (2018), the situation looks much better. In 2018, more than 5.5 million young people were neither employed nor enrolled at an educational institution or training program. This vital change is achieved thanks to multiple EU policies and tools. It provides proper training and education, prepares youngsters for the labor market and gives them the chance to be competitive and successful. However, it is important to notice that youth unemployment is 10 points higher than the average and there is a lot more space for improvement.

EU Youth Unemployment: Social and Economic Impacts

Eurostat reports show that EU youth unemployment rates are much higher than unemployment rates for all other age groups. In January 2019, jobless men and women above the age of 25 are 5.7%. As for the same period, rates among youths are 14% which is almost three times higher.

The unemployment rate is an essential indicator of both social and economic dimensions of youth poverty. Dangerously high unemployment rates show that young people can’t find their place in the labor market. Thus, they are not an active part of society. Jobless youngsters most often live with their parents, which destroys their learning motivation and civic engagement. Additionally, the lack of financial independence prevents them from going out and traveling. The combination of these factors kills their drive to find a job that creates even deeper despair on the emotional level.

A vicious circle starts forming around these young people who lose interest in social causes, politics and innovations. Once they lose their drive, long term unemployment is just the next step, according to studies in the EU. Unfortunately, many teenagers and twenty-something college graduates do not find jobs right after leaving the education system.

EU Institutions and National Governments Tackle Youth Unemployment

Young people’s labor market performance has indeed improved significantly over the past few years. According to the European Commission, there are 2.3 million fewer young unemployed now than five years ago. Around 1.8 million young people started apprenticeships, education or other kinds of training. Youth unemployment had decreased from 24% in 2013 to 14% in 2019.

The significant decrease of EU youth unemployment is possible through a combination of EU and national governments’ efforts to fight this phenomenon with various measures. This includes the promotion of a life-cycle approach to work, encouraging lifelong learning, improving support to those seeking a job and free training programs.

The latest research shows that apprenticeship and traineeship programs help prepare young people for the labor market and build relevant skills. Coordinating social policies like education or youth engagement and economic policies like employment rates is hard but a balanced governmental approach. With support from the local business in different countries, the number of youth employment increases in recent years. New partnerships have been set up with social partners, youth services and youth organizations as well.

These efforts should work to tackle EU youth unemployment by helping students and young professionals build attractive resumes for businesses operating on the global labor market. Nowadays, finding a job is more challenging than ever. Global competition requires all kinds of skill-sets from newcomers. In addition, these programs are designed to reinforce youngsters’ positions at this entry point. Besides, NGO initiatives and partner organizations create platforms for online education. The platforms are for people to take specialized courses without the need to enroll in an official university program. It’s easier, faster and very practical. Usually, such NGOs cannot provide certificates or diplomas, but the good news is businesses don’t need one. If the young person shows skills and a can-do attitude, he/she is hired.

The Changing of European Higher Education

The European conservative format of higher education is also changing slowly. More universities invite businesspeople to the campuses. This way the students can get the chance to meet entrepreneurs with hands-on experience and learn in a more informal environment. This type of education is most popular in the U.S., while formal education in Europe is still lagging in this regard. But times are changing, dynamics of life, work and study are different, and all involved parties are adjusting. There is no doubt that universities should work hand in hand with businesses to ensure a prospective future for young people.

Olga Uzunova

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in North Korea
Poverty in North Korea has been persistent for decades. North Korea is one of the most secluded countries in the world, both socially and economically. Since the Korean War in the 1950s, the nation has followed an ideology of self-reliance, called Juche in Korean. According to the official website of the North Korean government, Juche has three tenets: political independence, economic self-sufficiency and self-reliance in national defense. Adhering to these principles, North Korea withdrew from contact with other nations, gradually developing into the closed-off state it is today.

However, poor economic policies and the misallocation of resources have caused much of North Korea’s population to fall into poverty. One study estimates that the poverty rate of North Korea is around 60%, and another puts the percentage of undernourished North Koreans at 43%. The country suffers from chronic food shortages and has some of the worst income inequality in the world. Here are four influences on poverty in North Korea.

4 Influences on Poverty in North Korea

  1. Resource Misallocation: North Korea is notorious for its obsession with nuclear weapons and its military. The Korean War created high tensions between the country and its neighbors, leaving North Korea feeling threatened. As a result, North Korea funnels large amounts of resources into developing and maintaining weapons and the military, when it could better use those resources to fight famine and improve the economy.
  2. Environmental Collapse: To become self-reliant in food production, North Korea has employed intensive agricultural methods, using copious amounts of chemicals and cutting down forests to create farmland and increase crop yields. The loss of forests has led to erosion and flooding, costing the country much of its food supply. In addition, people chop down trees for firewood and eat wild animals to survive, leading to an imbalance in the ecosystem. With land growing less fertile, North Korea struggles to produce enough food for its people.
  3. Government Decisions: In 1995, the government cut supplies to the north of the country to provide more food for the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, to garner support for the regime there. This decision hurt the regime greatly. Farmers began hoarding food and selling it independently of the state. Citizen support of the regime fell, decreasing even further when the regime used force to maintain its power. The Juche ideology backfired, as the country had to rely on international aid during the famine.
  4. Decreased Foreign Aid: During the Cold War, North Korea received Soviet aid. However, the country refused to pay its debts to the USSR, which responded by withdrawing support for North Korea. The fall of the Soviet Union forced North Korea to rely more on China for imports. In the 1990s, however, China decreased its grain exports because its own population needed the crops. In response, North Korea condemned China as a traitor. Without foreign aid, poverty in North Korea has only worsened.

These four influences on poverty in North Korea show that it is the product of ill-advised governmental decisions. Fortunately, the global community has begun to take note of the country’s struggles, and other nations are offering help. China has been the most generous donor, sending over 200,000 tons of food in 2012 and $3 million in aid in 2016. South Korea has also been generous to its neighbor, pledging 50,000 tons of rice and $8 million in 2019. The U.N. asked donors for $120 million to give to North Korea, eliciting responses from countries like Denmark, Norway and Germany. Non-governmental organizations like the Red Cross and the World Food Programme likewise commit to helping North Koreans in need. Hope remains for the people of North Korea.

Alison Ding
Photo: Flickr